During a hearing on raising the minimum wage, Sen. Bernie Sanders got the ranking Republican on the committee to admit that he wants to abolish the minimum wage.
During a debate on Sen. Tom Harken’s legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour at a hearing of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the ranking Republican on the committee admitted that he wants to abolish the minimum wage.
Sanders said, “There are certain conservatives who do not believe in the concept of the minimum wage. The concept of the minimum wage. In other words, if the economy as such, and I offer you three dollars an hour.”
Ranking Republican on the committee Lamar Alexander jumped in, and it led to this telling exchange:
Sanders: So you do not believe in the concept of the minimum wage?
Alexander: That’s correct.
Sanders: You would abolish the minimum wage?
Sanders: If someone had to work for two bucks an hour, they would work for two bucks an hour?
Sen. Alexander compared the minimum wage to welfare, and said that he would use a “targeted” approach through increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit. Raising the EITC won’t do anything for people who are living week to week and paycheck to paycheck working minimum wage jobs, so in reality, Alexander would do nothing.
Alexander’s objections were not based on economic reasons. They were based on myth an ideology. Sen. Sanders argued with data that raising the minimum wage does not hurt the economy. Sen. Alexander argument against the existence of a minimum wage was based on the idea that it is like welfare, and welfare is bad.
The minimum wage issue is toxic poison to Republicans, but they keep thumping their chests with an air of superiority and telling people how their hard work doesn’t deserve to be paid a living wage.
A few weeks ago, President Obama called for the minimum wage to be increased to a living wage. Sen. Harken’s (D-IA) does exactly that. In large cities like New York, there would still be a small gap between the minimum and the living wage, but Harkin’s legislation would significantly narrow the difference between what minimum wage pays and the amount that minimum wage workers need to earn in order to survive.
Democrats, and Independents like Sen. Sanders, need to keep pushing this issue to the top of the agenda. The Democratic/progressive/liberal position is popular with voters, and Republicans are so blinded by their own ideology that they have no idea how much they hurt themselves every time they talk about the subject.
Bernie Sanders demonstrated how easy it is get a Republican to open mouth and insert foot on the minimum wage issue. Democrats everywhere should learn this lesson for 2014.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
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Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association